2020 Minor League Baseball Season Cancelled Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

This news does not come as a surprise, but the 2020 Minor League Baseball season has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. MiLB released a statement addressing the matter earlier Tuesday evening.

 

Per league president and CEO Pat O’Connor, “This announcement removes the uncertainty surrounding the 2020 season and allows our teams to begin planning for an exciting 2021 season of affordable family entertainment.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, heavy financial constraints were placed on minor-league clubs across the country due to the fact their primary source of revenue comes from ticket sales.

Unlike their parent major-league clubs, minor-league affiliates do not have lucrative television or other media contracts to rely on in the absence of ticket sales and other gameday revenue, so getting through an entire season with teams playing in empty or nearly empty ballparks would have been virtually impossible.

Back in May, the Red Sox committed to paying their non-40-man-roster minor-leaguers $400 per week through the end of August, or what would have been the end of the minor-league season.

Without a minor-league season, it has been reported by Baseball America that some teams will allow their minor-leaguers to pursue opportunities in independent league baseball.

It is also worth mentioning that the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox, were supposed to play their final season at McCoy Stadium this year before relocating to Worcester.

With Polar Park making progress towards its completion before the start of the 2021 minor-league season, it would seem as though the PawSox have already played their last game at McCoy, which they have called home since 1969.

On another note, the short-season affiliate of the Red Sox, the Lowell Spinners, probably won’t be affiliated with the Red Sox for that much longer, as the entire infrastructure of minor-league baseball appears to be headed towards rapid turnover. That much was made evident by this year’s amateur draft, which consisted of only five rounds to make it the shortest in MLB’s history to this point in time.

Minor-league baseball is an important aspect of the game for developing players and young fans alike. Despite that notion, the landscape of MiLB will probably never be the same beginning in 2021 if those aforementioned changed do take place.

What If There Is No Minor-League Baseball at All in 2020?

The Pawtucket Red Sox, Portland Sea Dogs, Salem Red Sox, and Greenville Drive should all be a little more than two weeks into their season right about now.

Instead, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the baseball season, major and minor-league alike, on hold for the time being.

Recently, there have been reports about Major League Baseball potentially putting together a plan that would involve having all 30 clubs play their games this season in one central location, such as Arizona, Florida, or even Texas.

As encouraging as those proposals may seem, what has not been discussed much since MLB suspended spring training last month is when the minor-league season will start, or if there will even be one at all.

According to Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, “In off-the-record discussions with people all around the game, there is a near-universal acknowledgement that there are a massive amount of hurdles that have to be overcome to make any MiLB season happen.”

Cooper gets into more of the financial and logistical side of things in his article, but in this case, I want to focus on the developmental side. More specifically, if no minor-league games are played in 2020, how would that impact a prospect’s development and career trajectory?

Take Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs for instance. The top prospect acquired by Boston from the Dodgers in the Mookie Betts and David Price trade is projected by FanGraphs to make his big-league debut at some point during the 2022 campaign. Would having no minor-league games to play in this year result in Downs’ ETA being pushed back another year?

That probably still depends on what the 21-year-old does in 2021, but taking away a year to develop and continue to improve in actual games while being under the eyes of the organization is something worth thinking about nonetheless.

As odd as it would be to see MLB games played in front of no fans in one neutral location this year, it might be even weirder to have no minor-league baseball to look forward to in 2020 at all.

Red Sox Social Media Team Gets Creative in Promoting Social Distancing

In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has seemingly shut down the sports world, the Red Sox got creative in promoting something we should all be doing during this time: social distancing.

Yes, across the three major social media platforms — Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter –the Red Sox changed their avatar/profile picture to what you see in the tweet above, which features the two “hanging Sox’ of the club’s primary logo being separated by an inch or two and the caption ‘#NewSociallyDistantProfilePic.’

This comes around the same time the Sox changed their bio on Twitter to ‘Wash your hands’ and on Instagram to ‘Official IG of the Boston Red Sox. Pls wash your hands.’

Per the Red Sox’ 2020 media guide, Maria Schroeder is the team’s social media coordinator. I can’t say for sure if this was solely her idea, but it is ingenious nonetheless.

The Salem Red Sox, the High-A affiliate of Boston, followed suit by changing their Twitter avatar and Instagram profile picture as well.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social distancing can best be defined as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.”

The CDC also recommended last week that no gatherings of 50 or more people should take place for the next eight weeks. A recommendation that Major League Baseball rightfully complied with, meaning the start of the 2020 season will be pushed back even further than initially anticipated.

If you want to learn more about COVID-19, here’s a helpful link from the CDC.

Red Sox Promote Seventh-Ranked Prospect Bryan Mata to Double-A Portland

For the second time in less than two weeks, the Red Sox have promoted a top right-handed pitching prospect within their organization, this time with right-hander Bryan Mata getting the call up from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland on Monday, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Mata, 20, is currently ranked as Boston’s seventh-best overall prospect and second among right-handed pitchers on MLB.com.

Signed as an international free agent as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela, Mata began the 2019 campaign with the High-A Salem Red Sox, where he posted a dazzling 1.75 ERA and .201 batting average against over 10 starts and 51 1/3 innings of work.

Selected as the Red Sox’ lone representative in the 2018 Futures Game in Washington D.C., Mata has done a great deal to cut down on walks since then.

In 72 full frames with Salem last year, the young hurler handed out 58 free passes, or averaged 7.25 per nine innings.

This year, in those aforementioned 51 1/3 innings pitched, Mata has allowed just 18 walks total, or 3.16 per nine.

According to his SoxProspects.com profile, Mata features a four-seam fastball that hovers between 94-96 MPH and tops out at 98 MPH, a slider/cutter hybrid he added this season that hovers around 86-90 MPH, a curveball that hovers between 78-80 MPH and has an 11-5 break, and a changeup that hovers between 84-86 MPH.

Mata will join fellow right-handed prospect Kutter Crawford (No. 19), who was promoted on June 21st, in Portland’s starting rotation and will also make his Eastern League debut in the second game of a doubleheader against the Trenton Thunder on Tuesday.

 

Red Sox’ Ninth-Ranked Prospect Jarren Duran Selected for 2019 MLB All-Star Futures Game

Rosters for the 2019 Major League Baseball All-Star Futures Game were announced on Friday, and the Red Sox will be sending just one representative to Cleveland next month in outfield prospect Jarren Duran.

Ranked as Boston’s ninth-best prospect on MLB.com, Duran will join 24 other prospects representing the American League in the Futures Game in Cleveland on July 7th.

For the last 20 years, the showcase was formatted so that the rosters were divided between U.S.-born and international-born players, but that all changes in 2019, as former Cleveland Indians great Jim Thome will be managing the American League side and long-time right-hander Dennis Martinez will be doing the same for the NL.

This honor is a first for Duran, who was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 3rd after a torrid start to the season with High-A Salem, where he led the Carolina League in hitting with a .387 batting average.

Initially, that promotion led to some struggles for the speedy 22-year-old, as he went just 6-for-38 (.158) with two doubles, one triple, and two RBI in his first 10 games with the Sea Dogs, but has since picked things up a bit over his last 11 contests, batting .250 (11-for-44) with one double and three runs driven in over that span.

Granted, Duran’s on-base percentage has fallen from .304 to .286 in that stretch, but that comes as his slugging percentage has slightly risen from .263 to .268 as well.

The call up to Portland has surely been a period of adjustment for the Sox’ 2018 seventh round draft pick out of Long Beach State, but to be named to the Futures Game in your first full season of professional baseball is pretty impressive nonetheless.

Red Sox’ Ninth-Ranked Prospect Jarren Duran Promoted to Double-A Portland

Less than a full calendar year after being selected with the 220th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2018 amateur draft, the Red Sox have promoted speedy prospect Jarren Duran from High-A Salem to Double-A Portland, according to SoxProspects’ Chris Hatfield.

Duran, 22, is currently ranked as Boston’s ninth-best prospect, according to MLB.com.

Drafed out of Long Beach State in 2018, the California native has done nothing but hit since reporting to Low-A Lowell last June.

In 67 total games split between the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues, Duran made a great first impression by slashing .357/.394/.516 with three home runs, 35 RBI, and 24 stolen bases.

This season, after breaking minor league camp with the High-A Salem Red Sox, the 2018 organizational All-Star came out of the gate running, leading the Carolina League, and all of minor league baseball for that matter, in hitting with a .387 batting average.

He also posted a .456 on-base and .543 slugging percentage to go along with four homers, 19 runs driven in, and 18 swiped bags over 50 games played.

Without a doubt, Duran is the most intriguing outfield prospect in the Red Sox’ system. How he adjusts to Eastern League pitching will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.

Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec Were at It Again for the Portland Sea Dogs on Sunday.

A few days ago, I wrote about how Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec each hit a pair of home runs for the Portland Sea Dogs in Erie, PA this past Thursday.

I talked about how they were two of the more interesting prospects in the Red Sox farm system to watch, and they proved me right once again yesterday afternoon.

Facing off against the Akron RubberDucks, the Eastern League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, and batting third and fourth in Portland’s lineup, the pair of corner infielders were responsible for all six runs scored by the Sea Dogs on Sunday.

An RBI single from Chavis in the first and two RBI doubles, one of which was good for two runs, from Chavis and Dalbec in the third had Portland up by four runs early.

Fast forward all the way to the top half of the eighth, with two outs and Chavis at first following a HBP, Dalbec put the exclamation point on a fine day for the Sea Dogs by blasting his 31st home run of the season between High A Salem and Double A Portland.

That big fly, Dalbec’s fifth in the past week, put the Sea Dogs up 6-2, which would turn out to be the final score in their third win in the last four days.

Since he was promoted to Portland on August 3rd. the 23-year-old Dalbec, ranked as the sixth best prospect in Boston’s system, is off to a hot start with his new club, as he is slashing .364/.421/.848 over his last nine games with those five homers and 11 RBI as well.

On the other side of the infield, Michael Chavis, 23, has been on a more torrid pace lately, as he was just named Eastern League Player of the Week after hitting .560 in his last six games.

On the season as a whole, Chavis, 23, a Georgia native and ranked as Boston’s top prospect, owns a 1.005 OPS to go along with six home runs in 27 games played between Low A Lowell and Double A Portland.

At 49-68, the Sea Dogs will be opening up the longest homestand of their season starting on Tuesday.

Bobby Dalbec Is a #RedSox Prospect You Should Keep Your Eye On.

Back during the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Red Sox used their only fourth round pick on a junior third baseman out of the University of Arizona named Bobby Dalbec.

Today, Dalbec has worked his way up to becoming the organization’s sixth best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Before receiving a promotion to Double A Portland on August 3rd, Dalbec, 23, had played in 219 minor league games between Lowell, Greenville, the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, and Salem.

Known for the power he provides at the hot corner, the native of Seattle has hit 48 home runs in his young professional career, with more than 58% of those coming in 2018 alone.

That’s right, Dalbec hit 26 long balls with the Salem Red Sox to go along with 85 RBI and a .945 OPS in exactly 100 games.

After getting the call up to the Sea Dogs this past Friday, the former Wildcat has gotten the next step of his career off to a hot start thanks to a two-homer game on Sunday afternoon against the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double A Affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

In three Eastern League contests, Dalbec is already slashing .444/.545/1.111 with those two homers and four runs driven in.

Those numbers are sure to go down over the course of what’s left of the Sea Dogs’ season, but it should be interesting to watch how Dalbec adjusts to stiffer competition.

The #RedSox Have Promoted 2018 Third Round Pick Durbin Feltman to High A Salem.

Wednesday may be an off day and the day after the trade deadline for the Red Sox, but the team has certainly kept themselves busy with a slew of roster moves.

Highlighting these moves would be none other than Durbin Feltman, the team’s third round pick in this year’s draft out of TCU, being promoted to High A Salem.

Feltman, a righty reliever, has pitched with both short season Lowell and full season Greenville in his first professional season.

In just four games with the Spinners, Feltman tossed four perfect innings in four different appearances while striking out seven.

After getting promoted to the Drive on July 10th, things have not gone as smoothly for the former Horned Frog in Greenville as they did in Lowell. Still, he posted a 2.57 ERA and .214 BAA in seven appearances from July 11th up to the 29th.

According to SoxProspects.com, Feltman is a three pitch type pitcher out of the bullpen:

Fastball: 94-96 mph. Has reportedly topped out at 99 mph. Ball explodes out of his hand and pitch has late life. Tough to square up. Command still needs some improvement, but already shows above-average control profile. Potential plus-plus offering. 

Slider: 84-86 mph. True power breaking ball. Pitch shows hard bite and depth though the zone. Gets over well and finishes the pitch. Able to throw in the zone and out depending on the situation. Potential plus-to-better pitch with the potential to miss bats at the highest level. 

Changeup: 85 mph. Clear third pitch. Lacks feel, looks like a fastball he takes something off. Using sparingly. Below-average potential.

Given how fast he has progressed through the Red Sox system, it would certainly not be surprising to see Feltman up with the big league club sometime this season, whether it’s when rosters expand in September or beforehand.

Feltman, 21, signed with the Red Sox for $559,600 on June 14th after being selected with the 100th overall pick in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

To go along with the Feltman promotion, other minor moves Boston has made over the last 48 hours include releasing Adam Lind, promoting Kole Cottam and Jarren Duran to Greenville, and promoting number 17 overall prospect Travis Lakins to Triple A Pawtucket.